So I thought I’d have my life all figured out by now. I would be a legal drinker and one step closer to a mortgage. I was positive I would have every step planned from graduation to grave by the time senior fall came around. Oh, how I was wrong.
I don’t even have a planner yet or a Google Calendar. Well, I take that back; I have a Google Calendar, but the events are from 2010: dance class, field trip to the blueberry farm and school night sleepover! Obviously, I marked the important stuff, but now, when I truly need a planner to keep my head from exploding, I buy one but then decide random sticky notes and my unreliable memory are sufficient.
So to first-year Addy: no, you will not have it all together. But, that’s okay. You will make mistakes — tons of them. You will fail intro chem tests, and you will confuse one person for another in the Fresh Food Cafe. You will forget names and reintroduce yourself, and you will be annoying at times. You will ask dumb questions, and you will get answers wrong and sometimes you will be totally lost in class. But, you aren’t alone. Pretty much every person experiences this, unless somehow they just glide through freshman year and college like it’s nothing. If you are that person, wow, I am in awe. But if you aren’t, don’t feel bad because most people are just like you.
You will probably go to O-Week parties, and you will most likely have to “take a lap.” Uni mini will be a hotspot, and there will always be someone who gets a special with hash. You will find yourself making friends in random places and at random times, like at M-Level tables and at Spring Fair. You will find people that you want to hold onto, because being separated is just too painful. You will find friends to go on adventures with, and you will find people who just totally and completely understand you. At the same time, you will have fights with people. There will be drama and plenty of gossip. You will say things you regret, but you will learn.
I thought the seniors I met my freshman year knew exactly who they were and what they were doing, and maybe they did, but that hasn’t been my experience. I have continued to learn about myself and at some points I have convinced myself that I am a certain person even when I’m not.
I tried on different professions as if they were school uniforms that I detested, and when one didn’t look horrible, I decided it was the one for me. It was to be the path I followed. I tried to prioritize practicality, and I argued with myself and persuaded myself that I could sit at a desk from nine to five everyday and be completely happy. In that argument, I left out the fact that I need a spinny chair for Zoom classes because sitting still for an hour is difficult. I left out the fact that I procrastinate, and the thrill of an impending deadline is the only way to get me to finish something.
I neglected to consider that I don’t want to sit and stare at a screen for eight hours a day. I’m not made to do that, but I convinced myself that I was so that I could have a career path. I thought everyone else had settled on one, so I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t. Was there something wrong with me? Was I not good enough?
I went through the list of questions, and in those, I found even more questions about myself. Could I do something on my own, or did I always need to be around people? Did I like who I was? Was I being real? In the end, I think the answers are “yes,” but the jury’s still out because I honestly don’t know exactly who I am yet. I’ve learned so much about myself, but I don’t have all the answers right now, and being okay with that, tells me I’ll figure them out someday. I’m okay with the uncertainty.
Even recently, in my last year, I have panicked and tried to think about how I could switch my major and still graduate on time. I still feel like I’m trying to get my footing.
And now, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and everything has changed. All the things I thought I had figured out have shifted. The way I interacted with people changed, as did the next steps of my “future” and so much more, but I’m not going to get into all the personal details. Don't worry, they aren’t as exciting as they sound. And there is just so much more to think about than what classes I’m taking and how I’m going to satisfy the need for social interaction.
Nothing showed me this more than when I was at home. I was forced to confront my parents’ mortality. My dad is in his late 60s, and my mom is turning 60 this year (shh I didn’t say that in here). For six months I rarely left home, as my town wasn’t like other cities. Restaurants were open — the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was happening, but just somewhere else. This terrified me. I didn’t want to bring COVID-19 into my house and get my parents sick. The three of us kept up with the news, and every time some new research or statistic was published, I found myself running through scenarios of what would happen to my parents if they got sick.
I’m an only child, and I really felt that while I was home. We even had the conversation about wills being in order. Well, they had the conversation, and I was nosy and listened through the door. Yeah, not my best moment. It was like being in high school all over again, but I had to actually think about the truth of what they were saying. This is just my personal family, and we talked about how we were lucky and how we could stay inside for a long time. My parents could avoid situations that put them in harm's way, but so many others couldn’t and still can’t.
I believe this year has asked all of us to step back and reflect, and that’s what I want to do this year. Am I still going to worry about my job, or graduate school, or what my next step is? Of course, but that’s just one small piece. It’s time to think about what’s going on around me and not just about myself. It’s time to grow up, and I hope that’s what I do this year.
If I graduate with no plan and no idea about what’s coming next, I will be more than happy as long as I have learned from my peers and if I have become a better person. Because at the end of the day, that’s what college is about, right? To become a better person. So, here’s to senior year and realizing that I’m a mess, but that’s okay.